From writer Brandon Boyce (Apt Pupil) and director Dean Devlin (Geostorm), the thriller Bad Samaritan follows Sean (Robert Sheehan) who, along with his best friend (Carlito Olivero), is a valet at a local restaurant in Portland, Oregon, where the two men burglarize the houses of customers while they eat. It’s a situation that works for them, until Sean robs the wrong customer – a wealthy man named Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) – and discovers that he’s holding a woman (Kerry Condon) captive and, in order to save her, he must endure the wrath of the kidnapper, who now seeks revenge on him.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with actor Robert Sheehan to chat 1-on-1 about the appeal of Bad Samaritan, the plausibility of this story, why doing a film like this can be like training for a triathlon, the most challenging scenes to shoot, and the vibe director Dean Devlin created on set. He also talked about the Netflix TV series The Umbrella Academy, developing his character Klaus, getting to collaborate with comic creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, and the way they’re shooting the series, as well as what he looks for in a project.
Collider: Was this fun to do, or does it get exhausting to constantly have somebody wanting to kill you?
ROBERT SHEEHAN: It was high octane and physically draining. If someone is training for a triathlon, they feel their muscles burning and their lungs choking, but then, at the end of the day, they get this enormous sense of achievement and satisfaction. I think it can be likened to that, to some degree, because the days were tough and they were long, and I’m pretty much in almost every frame of this film, getting battered and running around, but it was great fun. It was incredibly gratifying, despite the long, cold nights.
Did you know what you were getting yourself into, when you signed on?
SHEEHAN: No, but I always have a bit hubristic and delusional approach to starting a job. I’ll have a laissez-faire, delusional attitude of, “Eh, it’ll be fine!,” which is helpful because it means I’m probably not daunted by things as much. But with this, I wasn’t ready for the extremity of the shoot.
What was the appeal of this project for you? What was it about the script that drew you in?
SHEEHAN: It was the plausibility of it all. I think there’s a lot of fear in that. Me and David [Tennant] were doing an interview together and we were asked about our favorite horror/thriller type movies, and one of them that springs to mind is Funny Games. You can almost liken Bad Samaritan to Funny Games because it’s that theme of horror just down the street in your neighborhood. And actually, (screenwriter) Brandon Boyce’s other film, Apt Pupil, is a good example of that, too. You’ve got this Nazi war criminal living just four doors down. That was something that affected me, quite viscerally. The script was a real fuckin’ page turner, which never hurts. It was hard to put down, and that’s a lot to say about a script because scripts can be tough to read, even good ones. When you anchor the character very much in reality, as a young, naive, morally dubious young lad who makes mistakes, the audience can liken themselves much more to him and go along on the journey because he’s just a flawed individual in a shocking mess, who’s trying to figure out. It inspires the question of, what would you do, much more. With supernatural type of movies, if they’re not done correctly, there are a lot of actors just running and screaming and looking scared for an hour and forty, and that can get a bit old.
There are a lot of intense, dark moments in this, including having a woman tied to a chair and gagged. Were there any scenes that were particularly challenging, for you?
SHEEHAN: Yeah, it wasn’t very pleasant to see poor old Kerry Condon like that. That scene where I first discover Kerry, and then I have to put the gag back in her mouth, I just felt that bodily guilt thing that you feel. She was like, “It’s fine. It’s fine, honestly.” There was very little acting required there. I was daunted about putting the gag back in her mouth. The stuff at the end was challenging, as well, because the elements were somewhat against us. They calmed down eventually, but they were very against us, when we first went out on location and into the forests. For that scene between me and David and Kerry, it was really cold. I wanted to feel a bit of pain, because that often helps, so I laid at the back of the cabin for about half-an-hour, or 45 minutes, before we started filming, in the cold and with no jacket. By the time we were filming, I was in quite a bit of distress. That stuff really helps, when you’re trying to get to intense places. There was no shortage of unpredictability, on this shoot.
How did you find working with Dean Devlin? What kind of vibe did he create on set?
SHEEHAN: I think through sheer obsessive positivity, that trickled down, which is helpful. He’s incredibly decisive, which is great. I’ve been in environments where your director gets to a certain level of pressure and starts to become indecisive and starts changing things, and it sends a worry through the atmosphere of everybody, but Dean is completely not that. He’s an incredibly decisive director. He walks into a space and knows exactly how he’s gonna shoot everything, and that’s why we got the film done in such a short period of time. He’s used to shooting telly as well. It was a safe pair of hands.